ENFJ vs ESFJ: How to Tell Them Apart

If you’ve taken the 16-type test and feel torn between two preferences, don’t worry – you’re not alone. It’s fairly common to recognize parts of yourself in two or more type profiles, and that’s when breaking down the key differences and similarities can help bring some much-needed clarity about which type fits you best.

Today, we’re exploring six big differences between the ENFJ and ESFJ. These personalities can easily mistype as each other but it’s easy to distinguish them when you know what sets them apart. 

1. ENFJs look to the future; ESFJs thrive on the certainty of right now

As Intuitive types, ENFJs prefer to think about ideas, concepts and the future rather than what's happening around them right now. For example, an ENFJ teacher might look at a child who is behaving badly in the classroom and think about what the future might look like for that child if they don’t do the right thing for them. These forward-thinking types see potential everywhere and in everyone. They enjoy helping people grow into their best selves.

On the flip side, ESFJs focus on practical things, such as what’s happening in the external world. An ESFJ teacher will see a child being disrespectful or defacing school property and hone in on what this is doing to their classroom and the onlooking kids. Then, they’ll follow the school’s procedure for dealing with the incident. They won’t be cold about it – ESFJs are as warm and encouraging as they come. But their initial focus is dealing with the situation in the moment, not where the child will be in 10 years. 

2. ESFJs like stability; ENFJs look for change

ESFJs like to uphold traditions and stick to a set of ingrained values, so they often aren’t open to change. For instance, an ESFJ might have difficulty grasping more progressive changes at work or feel uncomfortable when their marriage roles are reversed. ESFJs do get behind positive changes eventually, but they’re very untrusting of anything outside the mainstream and have to be nudged outside of their comfort zones. 

ENFJs are the opposite – they like new ideas and champion positive changes. Since their eyes are always open to people’s potential, it's a huge win when they see a difference in someone’s outcomes and behavior. In addition, these types aren’t afraid of embracing changes necessary to a better society for their friends, family, and fellow men — even if it’s nontraditional.

3. ENFJs are fascinated by the unknown; ESFJs prefer concrete facts  

ENFJs like concepts and abstractions. They’re fascinated by the unknown, so new ideas and theories energize them. Instead of noticing the obvious, like proven facts and data, they look past those to find something deeper. ENFJs love pointing out unproven theories or faults, and they’re adept at spotting a red herring.

ESFJs find comfort in proven statistics, data and ideas. They don’t strive to find unproven things; they want practical information and hard logic that they can back up. The “unknown” makes these types feel unstable, so they will also look for the certain things in life like their own memories and past experiences.

4. ENFJs speak in metaphor and analogy; ESFJs say it like it is

Remember ENFJs have a thing for abstract ideas? Well, one of their favorite parts of speech is figurative language. Think of your favorite English teacher and how passionate they got about clever metaphors, similes and symbols required reading. That pretty much sums up how an ENFJ speaks.

While you might hear an ENFJ talking in riddles, the ESFJ is clear-cut in speech and prefers concise, to-the-point language. If you’re an ESFJ, you don’t beat around the bush or make something difficult to grasp; you use plain language and explain things sequentially with a clear beginning, middle and end. 

5. ENFJs push for self-improvement; ESFJs push for what’s socially acceptable

In relationships, ENFJs don’t let up on encouraging their significant others, friends, families and even themselves to be a better person tomorrow than they are today. They want everyone to grow and aren’t afraid to tell people about areas they could improve in. They aren’t annoying or negative about it; rather, they show people their potential and give them positive words of affirmation, offering support and a shoulder to lean on along the way.

ESFJs approach relationships in a more traditional sense. They’re more determined to uphold tradition in their relationships, especially regarding their significant others. ESFJs expect their loved ones to keep the same values and belief systems, and get uncomfortable when someone challenges these beliefs. They want to be a “perfect” wife or husband based on their traditional ideals and squash conflict as quickly as possible. Although they aren’t against self-improvement, they look at growth through the lens of the mainstream and will do everything in their power to fit in.   

6. ESFJs look before they leap; ENFJs dive head first

ESFJs are the definition of cautious. Despite these types being Feelers, they try not to let emotions rule over their practical outlook on life. They don’t like to jump into something without planning it out. These aren’t the personality types who will throw it all to the wind to start a new business without a game plan — or even get a radical new haircut. That’s not to say they won’t take an occasional risk, but it’s always a considered one that comes after a days-long, agonizing internal debate.

The ENFJ, on the other hand, can be impulsive. If you’re the type who dives right into something you’re passionate about, you’re probably an ENFJ, not an ESFJ. ENFJs feel energized by learning new ideas and starting a new activity, and they don’t always consider the implications before doing so. ENFJs can be unrealistic at times, and definitely can spread themselves too thin, but their desire to serve a greater purpose can lead to incredible, life-changing experiences.

ENFJ vs ESFJ: Remember the differences

We hope this article has helped you better understand the ENFJ and ESFJ personality types and has brought some clarity to how your mind works. Remember, these are just guidelines –  everyone is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to personality. If you’re still not sure which type you are, try taking the TypeFinder test again when you’re in a different mood or have a friend take it for you – you may still find elements of yourself in both types but eventually you should land on the one that resonates most. 

Cianna Garrison

Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.

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